The first thing that comes to mind with the term “Fortress Europe” is the EU. The European Union is in some ways a diplomatic and political miracle. In some ways this diplomatic and political miracle is overrated and even harmful. Thus it makes sense to look at the internal issues.
Before the EU became what it is now, history shows a number of things.
- After the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. the Western Roman empire crumbled.
- Between about 500 and 1500 A.D. Europe was generally quite uncivilised.
- Between about 500 and 1945 European “states” were very often in disagreement or armed conflict.
- After World War II Europe was largely in ruin. The Marshall Plan largely boosted the European recovery.
- After the last decolonisations armed conflicts were generally very unpopular.
States is between quotation marks because between the words state, nation and country the definitions have changed over the centuries. Also these five points skip many details. Regarding the about 500 to 1500 A.D. period, the loss of the Roman civilisation was not recovered until the Italian Renaissance really began. Illiteracy rates were enormous for centuries until people like Martin Luther protested. The Protestants brought reading to the masses in Western Europe.
Like before Europe is still a continent with many patches and each patch represents different people and interests. The EU acts like a co-operative union and a supra-national body with political powers. The EU contains most internal issues in Brussels and Strasbourg and brings stability.
In the 21st century there are many important choices to be made. A big Europe has a big internal market and extended borders. Borders deal with travellers and immigrants. Illegal immigrants can become a threat on the European labour market. At the same time the effects of the 2007-08 financial crisis still leave traces. Southern Europe needed support. Under stress the EU kept the EU a union.
Then there are the people. Europe might not have as many inhabitants as China yet European citizens have their demands and are used to certain living standards. The 2007-08 financial crisis had many layered effects, in particular regarding credit, loans, housing and the middle-class enterprises. Even in the Netherlands the ripples still show up.
Fortress Europe is stable and recovering. Yet Fortress Europe remains vulnerable…